History of back trouble motivating factor for Tigers

NEW YORK -- Ivan Rodriguez's representatives and the Detroit Tigers worked Friday to finalize the catcher's $40 million, four-year contract with the aim of announcing it early next week.

The sides planned to continue work on the agreement this
weekend, and the Tigers could hold a news conference as early as
Monday to announce the deal, a baseball source said on the
condition of anonymity.

Part of the negotiations is Rodriguez's health: if he suffers a spine injury in his lower back that lands him on the disabled list for five weeks or more, the Tigers would be able to terminate his contract after the 2005 season.

The 10-time All-Star catcher does not currently have any injuries, but the provision would protect the Tigers if one occurs.

On the verge of a contract agreement, Rodriguez was in Texas on Thursday to be examined by Dr. Andrew Dossett, the Rangers' spine consultant.

Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, had several conversations then with the Tigers aimed at finalizing the deal, one source said.

Under the terms being negotiated, Detroit could terminate the contract after the 2005 season if Rodriguez is on the DL for a lumbar spine injury for 35 or more days in either 2004 or 2005,
another baseball source said, also on the condition of anonymity.

Detroit also would have the right to end the contract after the 2006 season if he is on the DL for 35 or more days because of a lumbar spine injury that year, the source said.

Rodriguez was on the disabled list from June 6-27, 1992, because of a stress fracture in his back and a fractured thumb. He was out again from April 25-June 2, 2002, because of a herniated disc in
his lower back, an injury that didn't require surgery.

Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski wouldn't say much about the negotiations.

"I think, at this point, how we feel about the situation is best kept to ourselves," he said Thursday. "I will say that we continue to have conversations with Scott Boras, but I'll leave it
at that."

The deal contains a team option for 2008 that could make the agreement worth $50 million over five years. The sides spent Thursday going over contract language, one of the sources said.

Rodriguez, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, would be moving from the World Series champion Florida Marlins to a team that went 43-119, one of the worst seasons in major league history.

Rodriguez, 32, played his first 12 major league seasons with the Rangers, winning the 1999 AL MVP award.

He signed a $10 million, one-year contract with the Marlins and hit .313 last season with 16 homers and 85 RBIs. He was MVP of the NL championship series win over the Chicago Cubs, then helped Florida beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.